All children learn differently, and a high-quality mathematics curriculum takes that into account. When it comes to math in early childhood, it is important to be mindful that teachers and educators do not just push primary school concepts onto pre-schoolers but rather, that they select the topics and concepts based on what aspects of mathematics they would like to highlight, and how they can build on that foundation.
Teachers must also be careful to take a holistic view when planning the curriculum — select learning activities carefully and guard against simply resorting to worksheets that emphasise dead-end skills. Many children may be successful at completing a math assignment, but may not have the essential understanding needed for future success in the study of mathematics.
Consider a curriculum that works to develop better thinking and understanding – teachers select goals and activities that correspond to the child’s current level of development and that can provide a natural stepping stone to the next level. They create a classroom atmosphere filled with respect for self and others, where every child can learn through discussion, thinking, reasoning and making errors.
One way is to engage pre-schoolers in problem-solving tasks that make the most of children’s curiosity and inquisitiveness, allowing them to naturally explore the relationship between numbers and operations, as well as the world they live in. The idea is to build on children’s everyday experiences, where they learn through exploring their world — this provides an excellent opportunity for developing mathematical thinking.
For example, try setting up a “math problem of the week”, where no solutions are suggested — this allows children to use various manipulative techniques to relate their understanding of the world to mathematical concepts while working individually or in small groups.
Through many well-planned experiences, children will form a personal idea of number sense and be well prepared to face the complex world of primary mathematics.
This article was contributed by Ms Peggy Zee, Early Childhood Consultant.